From new offices, Jamie Martin and Ogden Jets ready for 2023 post-prep football season
OGDEN — James Madison Elementary may have just recently closed as an active school for Ogden School District, but it’s still open when it comes to continued life in the community.
Adult education programs are still ongoing there and prep work for OSD’s under-construction Ogden Technical High School is being based out of the old school.
Joining those programs, as of a month or so ago, is the Ogden Jets post-prep football team.
The Jets welcomed congressman Blake Moore, Ogden City Council member and mayoral candidate Ben Nadolski, and a dozen or so other interested parties to the team’s new headquarters Tuesday and Wednesday for welcome luncheons as the unique post-high-school football program readies to play in August.
Co-founder Dave Arslanian, head coach Jamie Martin and a few others from the Jets’ launch committee provided updates on the effort that aims to resurrect the educational opportunities once provided by junior college football, a segment of college athletics that has seen dozens of programs in the West fold in recent years.
“This isn’t about glamour or even football for these kids. They’re offering these kids a foothold for a better life,” said Nadolski, a former junior college football player at Phoenix College who then finished at Weber State. “It’s all about impact. It’s not about football, not about championships, it’s not about money. It’s about impact.”
Martin, the former standout Weber State quarterback who stuck in the NFL for 15 or so years, said he’s committed 40 players to play for the Jets this fall, about 30 of which hail from the general Northern Utah area. The team will practice at the Ogden Community Sports Complex and play games at Ben Lomond High School.
Otherwise, players can spend time at Jets headquarters in the former public school. There, the team had Martin set up in his own classroom as a head coach’s office and filled other classrooms for offense and defense meeting rooms, an equipment room and a training room, with access to a locker room and the gymnasium prior to evenings when Ogden City programs will use the facility for recreation team practices.
There’s also a computer lab where players can study for their track in the hybrid college program through USA Collegiate. Players can study and play for a year and move on to another college without having used any eligibility, or remain with the Jets and use eligibility while working toward an associate degree or toward finishing a trade program at Ogden-Weber Technical College.
“We’re trying to meet players where they are, former high school players who are hesitant about being a college student,” said Megan Pomeroy, academic director for USA Collegiate. “We’re trying to get them to see what’s out there for them other than football and we’re using football to help them get there.”
The program has gone from nothing in February when Martin sold his St. Louis restaurant and committed to coaching the team, to securing office space, a fair chunk of equipment, a place to practice and play games, and 10 games to play in the last four months.
The Jets have reached about half of the team’s $300,000 fundraising goal, which is mostly to cover startup and operating costs through the first year. After that, player-paid fees and tuition, team officials say, will fund the program.
If a player stays for the maximum of three seasons, Arslanian said they will have spent about $16,000 and will have an associate degree or be finished with their trade program, with some doing online college having the potential to be done or nearly done with a bachelor’s program, depending on their studying pace.
Martin said his team’s home schedule starts on Aug. 19 and that no Ogden Jets home games fall on the same day as Weber State home football games. The Jets will play twice against their sister school in St. George, the Eagles, which is also starting operations this season. The Jets will also play games against Air Force Prep, Paragon Academy (Las Vegas) and similar post-prep/gap-year programs in California, Oklahoma City and Florida.
Those interested in the fundraising efforts can visit The Coaches Team Foundation, the nonprofit Arslanian launched about 20 years ago to fund special projects in and around sports, at thecoachesteam.org.